The 29th annual Santa Barbara Triathlon is set to take place this weekend, August 27-29, providing the expected 2,000 competitors with an opportunity to prove their hard-earned strength and endurance. For those not participating in the races, there are other ways to be involved with the triathlon—namely volunteering and fundraising.

Each year, triathlon sponsor Montecito Bank & Trust chooses an area nonprofit to be the recipient of a percentage of the event proceeds. This year, it’s the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation (TBCF), which provides aid to families of children diagnosed with cancer. The bar for fundraising has been set as high as that for athleticism, with the goal at $50,000 for the TBCF. The foundation will disperse these funds among families in the tri-county area to help cover hospital bills, rent and mortgage payments, groceries, and hotel accommodations during hospital visits, and many more of the hardships faced by those battling the disease. In 2009, the organization served 104 families—445 individuals—reportedly providing 10 times more financial assistance than any other national organization that supports children with cancer.

Unlike many such foundations that operate on a nationwide basis, however, the help goes far beyond the financial arena. Where the TBCF really shines is its ability to create a support base for families. “I would think that the bigger organizations definitely have a niche; they fill a need where they can. But where we’re at—still smaller and grassroots—we are able to have more one-on-one with the families,” said Nikki Katz, who founded the TBCF after the son of a close friend was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma. “I want to grow, but I never want to leave that. I know it makes a difference; I’ve heard the parents say that a lot.”

Jessica Mireles, who became involved with the TBCF when her daughter Isabella was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, agrees that financial support, though helpful, simply isn’t enough. “You need moral support,” she said. “Most of all, you get to hear about so many children that are cured—not just the horror stories. That’s a big thing,” Mireles pointed out. “When you first hear ‘cancer,’ you think ‘death’ and think, ‘My kid’s going to die.’” Although Isabella has now, thankfully, overcome the disease, the family is still very involved in the organization. According to Mireles, “It’s like they’ve become a big part of our family.”

One of the many examples Mireles was able to provide of the generosity allowed by the TBCF grassroots configuration occurred at Easter during her daughter’s two-year-long chemo treatment. “I couldn’t leave the house to buy candy and prepare for the holiday. All of a sudden, there was a knock at the door and someone from Teddy Bear had brought a huge basket full of anything we could have needed. It was just beautiful.”

Volunteers are need for all three days of the triathlon to help with registration, water stations, course directions, and body marking, among other tasks. To inquire about volunteering or for more event information, visit Also this Saturday, Southern California Edison will be hosting a rummage sale to benefit the TBCF at their Goleta office at 103 David Love Place. For more information and to get involved, contact Cecilia Tavera at


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